Friday, October 14, 2011

The ‘erratic state’ raises the stakes

There will remain, it seems, no stone unturned. Such is the spirit of the times that even the most self-confident powers today tremble before the unknown while observing the tremors in the Arab world. Without the slightest doubt, Syria is the most likely candidate for the next mother-of-all troubles. The longer its internal conflict is extended, the easier it will be to pull in the two major external players in its turmoil: Iran and Turkey. “Together we are passing a crucial test,” said Ahmet Davutoğlu at a meeting with a small group of journalists some days ago as he shared the results of an in-depth analysis of expected developments regarding the al-Assad regime. His lengthy answers barely concealed the concerns in Ankara over the spread of this contagion to Turkish soil should the bloodshed in Syria turn to civil war. The Kurdish element is already visible in the conflict with the murder of Meshaal Temo, a respected Kurdish member of the Syrian opposition. His murder sent the first serious signal to the Kurds across the Turkish border to engage one way or another with the Syrian struggle as the al-Assad regime approaches a collapse. But there is also another element on this part of the border. The reports from reliable sources in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces tell us that the more the so-called “KCK operations” spread, the more consolidated Kurds’s pro-PKK stand becomes. This happens as the PKK’s “military command” warms up to Damascus. Also, Assad’s latest, rather threatful remarks against Turkey raises concerns about this. Because all the bridges between Ankara and Damascus are irreparably damaged, the options have also changed. Al-Assad and his inner circle seem to have chosen to ignore their predicted future, despite persistent efforts by President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. We now know that all went wrong, but how did it happen? A recap given by Davutoğlu clearly showed how quickly the dialogue faded in the course of their four phases of talks. He had held a 60-percent belief that al-Assad would be capable of leading the change towards democratization when they met in January this year. During their second meeting in April, which lasted three hours, al-Assad had promised he would be quick to bring about dialogue and reforms, but did nothing. When the killings intensified in July, Ankara’s trust in al-Assad to change “faded to 20 percent.” The six-hour meeting in early August between Davutoğlu and al-Assad basically ended in Ankara expressing deep concern that al-Assad was, despite all of Davutoğlu’s advise, “choosing the path of Causescu or Milosevic,” who both fell after shooting their own people. Al-Assad failed to fulfill his duty to pull his tanks out of Hama and instead played games to dupe those who called out against him. He refused to grant freedom of the press and had no intention of declaring a date for free elections to be held in 2012. At that stage, all faith in him was lost. By early September, Syria was defined as a “failed” or “erratic state” that was doomed to be demolished along with the blind clique that ran it. What concerns government sources in Ankara is the possible result of a Russian-Chinese veto of a draft resolution before UN Security Council against Syria, condemning its regime and threatening it with punitive measures. Sources in the Foreign Ministry point out that the al-Assad regime can barely conceal its joy that it – in a reminder of what took place with the Saddam regime – managed to divide the international community. It may now effect even more dangerous policies based on that feeling. Ankara fears that this international disagreement, which justifiably outraged the US, will lead to even more ruthless bloodshed by civilians, just like in Bosnia and Kosovo. The worst is when oppressive regimes get ahead by using the weaknesses of democratic powers. The show staged by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Libya and the increasing self-confidence that “we can go it alone, no matter what” felt by the French-UK axis might have caused the negative reflex of both China and Russia, sources tell. An analyst argued that “Russia suffers from the obsessions of its own past, from its archaic mentality to read into today’s quick and multi-faceted developments,” pointing out that Syria is the only country over which Moscow feels it has an influence in the region, a leverage it may want to keep. Erdoğan’s visit to Hatay province, which borders Syria and currently hosts some 8,000 Syrian refugees, has been postponed due to his mother’s passing. It is expected to be rescheduled soon. Is war in the list of concerns No; however, the major priority is one to which Russia, Israel and Iran should pay attention: All will be done to prevent Turkey’s stability from being affected by its erratic neighbor and Turkey’s rogue friends. 2011-10-11

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